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A better route for Frodo to get to Mordor? Using Fantasy Literature in Advanced GIS Courses

Authors: Robert Rose*, College of William & Mary
Topics: Geography Education, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: Education, GIS, Middle Earth
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As student interest in the geospatial sciences grows across William & Mary, the Center for Geospatial Analysis (CGA), as the campus home for GIS instruction, strives to find innovative approaches to teaching students how to answer questions with spatial data. Anyone who has taught a GIS course knows how challenging it can be to balance instruction on tools with instruction on spatial thinking and analysis. We have developed problem-based courses at the advanced level to help find that balance and provide students with GIS learning opportunities that extend their knowledge beyond the introductory course. Topics in these advanced GIS courses range from conservation GIS to gerrymandering and GIS and in this course, least-cost-path analysis set in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Using a GIS of Middle Earth, developed in the CGA, students have to answer the question: is there a better path for Frodo to take to Mordor to destroy the One Ring? Student teams use their GIS skills to develop a series of layers representing threats and travel layers and then combine these layers using a weighted sum analysis to derive a cost surface layer. From there, student teams create a least-cost-path from the Shire to Mt. Doom. This presentation will discuss the course development and learning outcomes and highlight the advantage of problem based learning in GIS instruction.

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